Tag Archives: Margaret Silf

Following the River—Prayerfully

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ireland - Bridges Park

Ireland – Bridges Park

Following the River—Prayerfully

When last we left our prayer narrative, we were right smack dab in the middle of things. Wonderful place to pick things up again.

The next method in prayer and meditation concerns a view of my life. (Or, your life. One’s life. Whoever we are talking about, anyway.) I was told to consider my life as a river, following it as it goes, through the bumpy, hilly, turbulent terrain.

To quote from Margaret Silf: “[The river] carves its way through the earth—hard clay or soft sand—where it finds itself; it finds ways to go beyond the obstructions and blockages that it meets; it may flow underground, forming channels and caves, or it may spread out and water the land around it. . . . [the river] offers space for the flow or resists it; it cooperates with the power of the water or its struggles against it.” [1]

One of the first questions Silf asks is “What kind of landscape has your river flowed through so far?” Wow. That is a big, BIG question for me. Sure, I could chalk out whole episodes in different areas of my life. Sure, many of them were unpleasant. However, I just need to look at things (or people, or ideas) that already strive to make sense of this seeming mishmash of random activities or average stuff or, hurtful people crossing the river of my life.

Imagine your life as a river. What is your river’s path through the landscape where life has set you? Think about it. Meditate on it. Journal about it. Pray.

Great advice. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

[1][1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 16-17.

Looking at the Past—Prayerfully

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, May 9, 2015

plowing - with an Egyptian farmer

plowing – with an Egyptian farmer

Looking at the Past—Prayerfully

I’m taking another chance with this passage from 1 Kings 19: Elisha plowing with oxen, and Elijah telling the younger man that he has a special calling from God.

I am not going to think about this particular passage in a negative light (since I had difficulty focusing on this as a ‘failure.’ Instead, it’s a new night, and a new beginning. And, look at the source material! As I examine what Margaret Silf suggests [1], I can compare myself to someone plowing. In a field, which is the world.

Aren’t we all plowing—doing our own thing in the world? Walking the wide field, the bright blue sky above, rich earth beneath my feet, and the oxen making noises, grunts. That’s where many of us are, I suspect. But as I look around this wide field/world, I can tell I am not alone. Not totally, anyway.

Silf encourages her readers to think of the various people who helped guide them in learning and using their particular plows. I remember several good friends who have stayed by my side over the years. Yes. I remember a therapist, a spiritual director, certain professors in seminary. All helped me to keep my furrow straight.

Has anyone mentioned you and your progress through life? Possibilities are (or, have been) presented that come out of the painful places in the past, as well as those happy, productive times, too? Yeah. Me, too. Thank God that I am in a place where I know I am loved by God, and where I feel loved, encouraged and supported. (By a few people, at least!)

Let’s pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for bringing special people into each of our lives. Thank You for those things they have taught us. I pray for each dear one. Give each one the support they need, right now. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 13.

My Connection to the Stars. Or, Not.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 8, 2015

moon and clouds

My Connection to the Stars. Or, Not.

I began the next exercise in the book Inner Compass this evening, in chapter 2. The author Margaret Silf encouraged her readers to use a passage from 1 Kings 19 in meditation and prayer. Where Elijah chooses Elisha, and there is some business with yoked oxen.

Somehow, I did not connect as closely with Elijah and Elisha, and the specifics of the passage. However—in an instant, I entered into the preliminary imagery and meditation Silf described:

“Begin by imagining yourself standing outside your own home, beneath a brilliant, starry sky. Take in the splendor and the immense space stretching out above you, beyond your grasp, beyond measurement. . . . Now find a familiar constellation. Out of the infinity, there is something recognizable—it pinpoints your location exactly in time and space.” [1]

Boy, was I able to visualize this in my imagination. I was immediately outside, face upturned, searching the sky for a constellation. I thought of Orion. I’ve almost always been able to find Orion’s belt when stargazing. Except—on this occasion.

Here in the Chicago area, the stars are less bright. Or, the street lights and various other lights of the city and suburbs mask the brilliant evening sky. Or, something in between the two. I usually see only a small portion of the stars that others tell me about. Others who live in rural areas, far away from the bright city lights. (I hear tell of the glorious wonders of the star-filled heavens.)

But that was not all. In my imagination, I stood in the middle of an open grassy space where I ought to have been able to see some stars, at least. Wouldn’t you know, all the eyes of my imagination could see were clouds. Over almost the whole sky. Although, I did spy the moon, struggling to shine through the cloud cover. The clouds tumbled along in a hurry, and the dim light from the moon flickered. Brighter, then more subdued. I could catch a quick glimpse of a star or two, but then they would be covered up again as the clouds continued to roll across the dark panorama of the sky.

Try as I would to follow Silf’s instructions, I just could not focus on a single star, much less a constellation. That detour at the beginning of my prayer exercise short-circuited the exercise for me. Or, at least sent me in a different direction.

I vaguely understood that my place in the heart of God was hidden. Somewhat. God is still there, of course, just like the moon behind the clouds. But, I am still struggling to find my place, find that unique place that is all mine, in the heart of God.

God willing, I may find that place. And meanwhile, I am still on the journey with God, even though God is hidden. Sometimes.

I didn’t even really consider 1 Kings 19 tonight. I was too caught up with the starry preamble. But, that’s okay, I think. Wasn’t it? I hope so. I pray so. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayer.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 13.

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, May 7, 2015

meditating Jesus - unknown artist

meditating Jesus – unknown artist

My Personal “How” Circle—and Ignatian Prayer

I read the passage from Luke 1 again tonight. I still am not too excited about the Annunciation passage, but that was what Margaret Silf next suggested as a prayer opportunity in her book Inner Compass. So, I did it.

This assignment had to do with the “How” circle of my life. (It did not mention the “How” circle of Mary’s life, but I immediately went there.)

What is a “How” circle, you ask? Great question! The “How” circle is that area of my life where I have some ability to exercise some choice, as Silf suggests. Things do continue to happen, it’s true. However, I often have the ability to decide how I will respond to them.

So, given these parameters, Mary had a “How” circle, too. What were her choices, following the Angel Gabriel’s announcement? Fascinating exercise, positing some of Mary’s immediate and long-term choices. (For instance, what would she tell her betrothed, Joseph? And how ought she to let him know?)

As fascinating as that may be, that wasn’t the assignment for tonight. This particular assignment involved me, and drawing several concentric circles around my “Center.”

The outermost circle has the label “Where am I?” and involves all of the things/facts and circumstances in my life that I cannot change. For example, I was born in Chicago to two college graduates, the youngest in my immediate family. I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation. I am nearsighted. These are indisputable facts. Simply speaking, where I am.

I’ve already mentioned the next concentric circle, named “How am I?” Last, the innermost circle is labeled “Who am I,” and involves the center of my being where I am who I truly am. In and of myself, and before God. This is also the circle where I am the most true and the most myself. The most stripped away. The most honest and open, if you will.

Yet, my traitorous thoughts keep wandering back to Mary. What does her “Where” circle look like? Is it compounded by the choices she makes, as a result of the Annunciation?

The concentric circles of Mary and my concentric circles seem to be more of a Venn diagram, overlapping. Mingling. Are most things in my life static, and already chosen for me? Were they chosen for Mary? How about both sets of “Who” circles, and how honest and open am I? How honest and open is Mary?

I feel awkward about this meditation. It brings up SO many questions, questions about which I have only a limited ability to answer.

I’m going to pray. You can join me, if you would like. Dear Lord, gracious God, this meditation distresses me, kind-of, sort-of. My mind keeps on flitting away from myself, and going to Mary. But—that’s good, isn’t it? Especially in Ignatian prayer? Lord, help me to orient my mind in this imaginative way of praying. Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

First Try at Ignatian Prayer (Using Inner Compass)

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Virgin Mary praying mosaic

First Try at Ignatian Prayer (Using Inner Compass)

I’ve been hesitant to dip my toe into the imaginative style of prayer that St. Ignatius recommends in the Spiritual Exercises. This time, that is. Ordinarily, I find Ignatian prayer and meditation exciting, exhilarating, even intriguing. I appreciate using the abilities of my senses to assist in my prayer times.

But—there was something about the passage Margaret Silf chose for the first passage. The Annunciation, from the first chapter of Luke. That made me hesitate, for several days.

I finally pulled up my figurative-bootstraps and waded into the passage. That’s what it felt like, truly. At first.

I read it through, relatively slowly, three times. The first time, just to get a handle on what I was reading. The second time, to particularly notice things. Trying to imaging the setting, the house, the dusty road outside the door. Mary, a teenage girl, and her being frightened, startled. And the third time—the angel. I was arrested by the angel. The special effects in my mind must have been great, because I saw the angel as vaguely masculine but with a body of light. Corporeal, but filled with light. Or generating light from within. So awe-inspiring, and frightening.

I realized I was peeking into the main room from the adjacent room (a kitchen?). I saw the conversation between Mary and the angel, and I could sense Mary’s anxiety and fear. Yet, as the angel spoke of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth (which is my name, I think in retrospect), I feel a sudden kinship with Mary’s cousin. I don’t believe I ever have, before.

That’s all I got for today. That’s what the passage held for me. That’s a lot, too.

Let’s pray. Dear Mighty One, overshadowing all of Your children, You are loving and You see everything. You want each of us to say “I am the servant of the Lord,” don’t You? Help me to be willing to say that, on a regular basis. Thank You for the assistance Your Spirit gives to me, each day. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of us as we pray.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

Prayer? Praying into the Center.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Holy Spirit as a dove -  Orthodox Church mosaic

Holy Spirit as a dove –
Orthodox Church mosaic

Prayer? Praying into the Center.

I still am at the very very beginning of this marvelous book. I can’t seem to get past this beginning part. I re-read the portion of the first chapter where Margaret Silf discusses prayer the way St. Ignatius spoke about it in the Spiritual Exercises.

“Prayer is Sabbath Time.” Time to separate myself from the hectic hustle and bustle of everyday life. Prayer is meant to be a calming interlude, yes. Yet, much more. Prayer is meant to be a foundation for my day, for my night, at any and all times. Prayer is an act of transformation.

“Prayer is time taken out of the linear journey of our days, and it is also our most profound reality. When we pray, we move inward to our God center.” [1]

While I’m able to discuss prayer in general, I am having a bit of a problem approaching the specific suggestion for prayer at the end of the chapter. Perhaps that is why I am reflecting again and again on the material in this chapter, and not charging ahead to the prayer and reflection.

I know I have been able—in the past—to pray using this passage. A passage from Luke 1, where the angel Gabriel announces the pregnancy and upcoming birth to Mary. However, I am shying away from it this time. Perhaps I need to find out additional things from the very first chapter. We’ll see, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, I’m still dancing around this Annunciation passage. God, in Your mercy, reveal one or two insights to me from these words of Dr. Luke. Whenever I get to this passage, anyway.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for giving me such wonderful children. I have a slight glimpse, a bare inkling of what Mary heard, one fine day in March. Help me to be a good pray-er, especially when praying about people and their families.. Thank You, God, for the biblical account of Mary and the angel Gabriel. For, that is what this Annunciation passage is all about. New life, new birth, new glimpses of You. Help us to reach for You, in all that we do.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 4.

Be Careful How You Pray. An Introduction.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, May 4, 2015

experience prayer

Be Careful How You Pray. An Introduction.

I find I am fascinated by the book Inner Compass. This book is on Ignatian spirituality. And, it is also on prayer and how to orient ourselves to God.

Specifically on prayer, I love how St. Ignatius gives specific instruction in what to do. Margaret Silf also passes on the principles of Ignatian prayer. That is, a style of prayer and meditation that will deepen the pray-er’s understanding of God. One highlight that Ignatian prayer holds for me is lively use of the imagination. A close second stand-out is how reflective and deeply meaningful it can be.

My caution? Ignatian prayer can be slow and subtle. It can also be strong and sudden—just like my feelings. Not that this form of prayer isn’t unpredictable, but I would say surprising, instead.

I so want to dig deeply into Silf’s understanding of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius; but I get the sudden feeling that this would be like jumping off the deep end of the pool. (Not unlike the way that I got into the Spiritual Exercises, ten years ago. But I digress.)

As an introduction, let me quote from the first chapter of Inner Compass: “When we open ourselves to God in prayer, we invite him to enter our Who center, bringing the gifts of the Spirit into the heart of our lived experience, with all its problems, pain, and sin.” [1]

St. Ignatius considered prayer very much a gift from God. When we enter into the adventure of prayer, what Silf calls our Who center [Who each of us is, deep down, inside] can be deeply triggered. Accessing that gift of prayer can split me wide open. Open to praise of God, yes. But open to problems, pain and sin, as well.

Be careful what you pray for, and how you pray, indeed. Especially using Ignatian prayer.

(To be continued!)

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), 4.

Life is Unfamiliar Terrain.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, May 2, 2015

journey - all you need

Life is Unfamiliar Terrain.

I can only take it for a little while. In small mouthfuls. I’m talking about my book for May, on Ignatian prayer and spirituality. Inner Compass, written by Margaret Silf (published by Loyola Press).

I read a few pages, and then something will stand out. So, I’ll think about that for a while. Maybe I won’t get back to the book, but then again, I just might.

I’m still in the section before the pages with Arabic numerals. After the foreword and preface, but still in the part where there are Roman numerals. As Margaret Silf drew near the close of a section called “Meet the Guide,” she made a statement that drew me up short: “ . . . life, for all of us, as we move into the future, is unfamiliar terrain.”[1]

I do not know exactly why this sentence arrested me. Or, caught me off guard. Perhaps it made me reflect on the temporary nature of life. Or, on the impermanence of my present and my possible future(s). Now that I have arrived at middle age (surprise!) and my hands are becoming wrinkly, I see how fragile my life is, how tenuous our connections are.

That might be why Silf’s subsequent discussion of landmarks was reassuring to me. She spoke of landmarks along our journey. Whether it is a spiritual journey, a journey through life, or some other trip, that was a helpful analogy to me. The concept of some feature on the virtual (or even actual) landscape assisted me in my being open and willing.

“Landmarks help us to locate ourselves and encourage us to keep walking.”[2] True enough. I can see how landmarks assist me along the spiritual journey of my heart—finding God in my daily existence and in the everyday. And, I remember from ten years ago, when I used the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, how vivid my occasional day’s prayers could be.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for this month of Ignatian prayer and meditation. Help me to be honest, open and willing in this endeavor. And especially, thank You for Margaret Silf and her encouraging words.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), xxv-xxvi.

[2] Ibid, xxvi.

Beginnings of Prayer. And Ignatian Spirituality.

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, May 1, 2015

PRAY teach us to pray

Beginnings of Prayer. And Ignatian Spirituality.

The month of May is a month of growth and new life here in the Midwest. I wanted to choose a book on prayer that would assist me in growing and experiencing that new life in Christ. In this Easter season, it seemed right to me that I ought to turn to Ignatian spirituality. A beginning look at the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

It was a wrench for me to turn away from the liturgical lectionary book of daily readings which we used for almost the whole of the month of April, but I wanted to stick with my original program: to look at many different ways, means, and approaches of prayer, in these twelve months of 2015.

I’ve chosen a book called “Inner Compass,” written by Margaret Silf (published by Loyola Press). But, I worked it backwards. Sort of. I worked through the Spiritual Exercises first, in summer of 2005. Then, the following year, I turned to Silf’s book. This introductory book was helpful to me when I read it some nine years ago, as an afterword. Or, an addition.

When I pray, I greatly prefer Ignatian prayer and meditation to certain other kinds of prayer. But, I realize I need to go back to the very beginning. I will have to take a look at the beginnings of the saint’s notebook of prayer, his guidebook where he recorded his experiences in prayer after his conversion and pilgrimage. I hope I can show—through my poor example and experience—how certain people might go about this procedure.

I’m excited to revisit this wonderful, helpful method of prayer. As Silf tells us, we can use this way of prayer “to become increasingly sensitive to God’s action in our lives . . . to discover and live true to the very deepest desires within us . . . to make decisions that reflect God’s indwelling presence . . . and to joint our lives consciously with the life of Jesus, God-made-man, through the living spirit of the Gospel.” [1]

Praying and hoping I can assist some people with St. Ignatius’ ideas and method of prayer, I am embarking on a journey of prayer.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for this time-tested way of prayer, this manner of coming into Your presence with such a deep and meaningful approach. Help me to follow the landmarks set out for me. I will try to observe each one. Help me, God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my sister blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.   @chaplaineliza And, read sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er .

[1] Silf, Margaret, Inner Compass: Introduction to Ignatian Spirituality (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1999), xxiii-xxiv.